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Horseformation Updated 7/28/2014

November 3, 2009

Saddle fitting seems to be a mystery for many horse enthusiasts.  If the saddle doesn’t fit the horse, than the horse is going to get very sore and likely react in a disapproving manner.  When the saddle doesn’t fit the rider properly, the rider will usually be uncomfortable and while trying to compensate, will inevitably cause pain and discomfort for the horse.  The best saddle fitting videos that I have found for just about every type of saddle are located at: bayequest.  Even though this site requests a login for access to certain information, anyone can watch the free videos located under “Horse Lover’s 2 Minute How To Video”.

Another interesting saddle fitting and saddle design video is from Boz Saddlery. The right saddle for both horse and rider is out there somewhere.  It’s certainly hard to decide.

In 2004, after taking much time to research saddles and their shape in comparison to the shape of the horse and the horses movement, I decided to purchase an American-Flex endurance saddle formerly made in Germany.  It has a more narrow twist than many saddles which I like, and a flexible panel system that is adjustable in the front and back, so it allows for more shoulder movement and physical changes from horse to horse, etc.  I have used this saddle the entire time and have loved it.  It continues to be my favorite saddle after 8 years and thousands of miles of riding.  Recently because of the wear on the mechanical parts and the somewhat narrow tree compared to my younger horses frames, I’m interested in trying a Trumbull Mtn. Equinox saddle.  As I continue to research this topic and try more saddles, I will include more information.

Saddle Fitting Theena 9/26/2012:  Theena’s unique Arabian body has prompted me to search for a saddle that is suitable for her and probably won’t be for the rest of my herd.  As she was maturing, my American-Flex endurance saddle fit her nicely and until recently, it was the only saddle out of the three saddles that I own, that we could use minimally.  Theena let me know that there was a problem with the saddle by pulling back at the trailer when tightening the girth or cinch, depending on which saddle I was using.  (Girth is the term used for english saddles and cinch is the term used for western saddles.)  She would also rear and try to buck when I asked her to trot or canter.  The pinching saddles made extension very uncomfortable for her.  After a few rides with these reactions, I started riding her bareback until I could find and purchase the correct fitting saddle.

Unlike my Morgan horses, Theena has an extra large chest, wide and round body, “mutton” wither or flat back, one less rib because she is an Arabian, and she is croup high.  An average english saddle width is around 6″ in the gullet with what is considered as a medium tree.  I tried a wide jumping saddle that measured 7″ in the gullet and a western saddle with “quarter horse” bars which also measured 7″ in the gullet and neither fit her correctly.  They were both still too narrow in the shoulder area which prohibited her movement, making her uncomfortable.

After measuring Theena’s back again and researching english and endurance saddles more, I came to the conclusion that I needed a wide tree with an 8″ gullet which creates a wider twist.  I prefer an adjustable saddle and a more narrow twist as in the Laser saddles, but after visiting with a saddle maker at Thornhill, I decided to try their recommended  Vienna II extra wide dressage saddle.

Thornhill’s Vienna II Dressage Saddle

The two reasons that I didn’t go with a Laser dressage saddle is because of the expense and because of their more narrow gullet.  Two indications that a saddle doesn’t fit correctly are “bridging” and “rocking”.  Laser Equestrian Products and Dr. Robson’s video have excellent english saddle fitting videos and information.  Laser Equestrian’s site provides information about “bridging” and demonstrates a “rocking” saddle.  These videos are very informative and I recommend watching them both.

Feeling confident about saddle size and fit for Theena and deciding to purchase a dressage saddle this time, I needed to size one for myself.  I rode in a few dressage saddles and took to researching.  A deep seat was too restricting for me and the bars too angled for Theena so I would require a more open seat and she require straighter bars.  The ideal size for my body type would be a 17.5″ with 17″ flaps.  Not wanting to purchase a new saddle, Ebay and Craig’s List were my next visit.

Craig’s List was a bust, but on Ebay, there were many dressage saddles and a few Laser dressage saddles.  Finding my size was more difficult then I thought it would be and finding a gullet that was 8″ wide was also a challenge.  The Thornhill Vienna II seemed like the correct choice so I checked Ebay daily and waited as patiently as I could.

God as my guide, 30 days passed and I was getting discouraged and thinking about settling for a different saddle.  Bidding on a few others and loosing the bids, they were not meant to be.  Then surprise!  An extra wide Vienna II Thornhill dressage saddle popped up on my screen.  It appeared to be in good shape and it was a 17″ so I said a prayer and bid on it.  Ten days later, the saddle was in my possession.  Thank you Lord!  🙂  It fit Theena PERFECTLY and we are breaking it in.  This saddle rides great and although the seat is more deep then I prefer, Theena’s comfort is important to me.  She has not offered any resistance and I am getting more in tune with this saddle with every ride.  WE ARE HAPPY!

Girths:  Along with a different english saddle is the requirement for a new or different girth.  My endurance girth worked with the longer dressage billets when Theena was plump.  After loosing some unwanted pounds, she required a smaller girth.

There are many english style girths to choose from.  One thing that I have learned is that if the girth has elastic, it’s better to have elastic on both ends for the comfort of the horse.  The alternative is having no elastic, which is what my endurance girth is like.  If there is elastic on only one end, then the girth is flexible only on the elasticized end, creating an uneven result.  If there is elastic on both ends, there is flexion on both ends.  Not using elastic results in a solid contact and less need for replacement of the girth when the elastic wears out, which seems to be the first component to deteriorate.

Sizing a girth:  eHow has helpful step by step instructions on how to measure for a dressage girth.  Determining which style to go with and how much to spend are other considerations.  Toklat makes custom girths at a reasonable price and SmartPak stocks many to choose from.  It appears that Theena is going to require a 28″ girth to be used with her Vienna II dressage saddle.

Riser pad:  Because Theena is croup high, no matter how nice her Vienna II saddle fits her, I am positioned too far forward making me struggle for centered balance.  Her topline not being level, positions the cantle higher then it should be in relation to the pommel.  It would appear that the tree in her saddle isn’t the perfect shape for her back.  The flocking could be adjusted but that would limit the saddles use on different horses.

Some options that can be used for raising the pommel to the correct height are pommel pads, shims, half pads and riser pads.  I don’t want to use a pommel pad because I think the transition is too abrupt, potentially creating a pressure point.  Shims can be beneficial but they also can slip and are sometimes difficult to work with.  Half pads look great and work well but quality ones are expensive in my opinion and I want the best bang for my buck.  Hence the riser pad.

Riser pads are made out of a variety of materials and are available in a few sizes.  They can cost as much as some half pads but the price point has a larger range.  I am going to research this item a bit more and share my findings soon.

Have you ever wondered how to obtain an equine pedigree if you aren’t a member of the organization that manages the registry.  One source for thoroughbreds and quarter horses that I found helpful is: Although this site is geared toward the racing enthusiast, it contains valuable information that any horse lover can use.

Another site I found interesting and fun is:  horsegirltv.  Angelea has a blog on twitter both of which are full of information.  From basic equine grooming tips and chiropractic horse care to interviews with Chris Cox and Carson Kressley, Angelea has the coverage.  Enjoy!


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